Showing 1 - 25 of 134 results
Signaling, Deconstructed: Using Optogenetics to Dissect and Direct Information Flow in Biological Systems.
Cells receive enormous amounts of information from their environment. How they act on this information-by migrating, expressing genes, or relaying signals to other cells-comprises much of the regulatory and self-organizational complexity found across biology. The "parts list" involved in cell signaling is generally well established, but how do these parts work together to decode signals and produce appropriate responses? This fundamental question is increasingly being addressed with optogenetic tools: light-sensitive proteins that enable biologists to manipulate the interaction, localization, and activity state of proteins with high spatial and temporal precision. In this review, we summarize how optogenetics is being used in the pursuit of an answer to this question, outlining the current suite of optogenetic tools available to the researcher and calling attention to studies that increase our understanding of and improve our ability to engineer biology. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Biomedical Engineering, Volume 23 is June 2021. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.
Multiple Sclerosis-Associated hnRNPA1 Mutations Alter hnRNPA1 Dynamics and Influence Stress Granule Formation.
Evidence indicates that dysfunctional heterogeneous ribonucleoprotein A1 (hnRNPA1; A1) contributes to the pathogenesis of neurodegeneration in multiple sclerosis. Understanding molecular mechanisms of neurodegeneration in multiple sclerosis may result in novel therapies that attenuate neurodegeneration, thereby improving the lives of MS patients with multiple sclerosis. Using an in vitro, blue light induced, optogenetic protein expression system containing the optogene Cryptochrome 2 and a fluorescent mCherry reporter, we examined the effects of multiple sclerosis-associated somatic A1 mutations (P275S and F281L) in A1 localization, cluster kinetics and stress granule formation in real-time. We show that A1 mutations caused cytoplasmic mislocalization, and significantly altered the kinetics of A1 cluster formation/dissociation, and the quantity and size of clusters. A1 mutations also caused stress granule formation to occur more quickly and frequently in response to blue light stimulation. This study establishes a live cell optogenetics imaging system to probe localization and association characteristics of A1. It also demonstrates that somatic mutations in A1 alter its function and promote stress granule formation, which supports the hypothesis that A1 dysfunction may exacerbate neurodegeneration in multiple sclerosis.
Synthetic Biological Approaches for Optogenetics and Tools for Transcriptional Light‐Control in Bacteria.
Light has become established as a tool not only to visualize and investigate but also to steer biological systems. This review starts by discussing the unique features that make light such an effective control input in biology. It then gives an overview of how light‐control came to progress, starting with photoactivatable compounds and leading up to current genetic implementations using optogenetic approaches. The review then zooms in on optogenetics, focusing on photosensitive proteins, which form the basis for optogenetic engineering using synthetic biological approaches. As the regulation of transcription provides a highly versatile means for steering diverse biological functions, the focus of this review then shifts to transcriptional light regulators, which are presented in the biotechnologically highly relevant model organism Escherichia coli.
TopBP1 assembles nuclear condensates to switch on ATR signaling.
ATR checkpoint signaling is crucial for cellular responses to DNA replication impediments. Using an optogenetic platform, we show that TopBP1, the main activator of ATR, self-assembles extensively to yield micrometer-sized condensates. These opto-TopBP1 condensates are functional entities organized in tightly packed clusters of spherical nano-particles. TopBP1 condensates are reversible, occasionally fuse, and co-localize with TopBP1 partner proteins. We provide evidence that TopBP1 condensation is a molecular switch that amplifies ATR activity to phosphorylate checkpoint kinase 1 (Chk1) and slow down replication forks. Single amino acid substitutions of key residues in the intrinsically disordered ATR activation domain disrupt TopBP1 condensation and consequently ATR/Chk1 signaling. In physiologic salt concentration and pH, purified TopBP1 undergoes liquid-liquid phase separation in vitro. We propose that the actuation mechanism of ATR signaling is the assembly of TopBP1 condensates driven by highly regulated multivalent and cooperative interactions.
Dual Systems for Enhancing Control of Protein Activity through Induced Dimerization Approaches.
To reveal the underpinnings of complex biological systems, a variety of approaches have been developed that allow switchable control of protein function. One powerful approach for switchable control is the use of inducible dimerization systems, which can be configured to control activity of a target protein upon induced dimerization triggered by chemicals or light. Individually, many inducible dimerization systems suffer from pre‐defined dynamic ranges and overwhelming sensitivity to expression level and cellular context. Such systems often require extensive engineering efforts to overcome issues of background leakiness and restricted dynamic range. To address these limitations, recent tool development efforts have explored overlaying dimerizer systems with a second layer of regulation. Albeit more complex, the resulting layered systems have enhanced functionality, such as tighter control that can improve portability of these tools across platforms.
Steering Molecular Activity with Optogenetics: Recent Advances and Perspectives.
Optogenetics utilizes photosensitive proteins to manipulate the localization and interaction of molecules in living cells. Because light can be rapidly switched and conveniently confined to the sub‐micrometer scale, optogenetics allows for controlling cellular events with an unprecedented resolution in time and space. The past decade has witnessed an enormous progress in the field of optogenetics within the biological sciences. The ever‐increasing amount of optogenetic tools, however, can overwhelm the selection of appropriate optogenetic strategies. Considering that each optogenetic tool may have a distinct mode of action, a comparative analysis of the current optogenetic toolbox can promote the further use of optogenetics, especially by researchers new to this field. This review provides such a compilation that highlights the spatiotemporal accuracy of current optogenetic systems. Recent advances of optogenetics in live cells and animal models are summarized, the emerging work that interlinks optogenetics with other research fields is presented, and exciting clinical and industrial efforts to employ optogenetic strategy toward disease intervention are reported.
Liquid-liquid phase separation of light-inducible transcription factors increases transcription activation in mammalian cells and mice.
Light-inducible gene switches represent a key strategy for the precise manipulation of cellular events in fundamental and applied research. However, the performance of widely used gene switches is limited due to low tissue penetrance and possible phototoxicity of the light stimulus. To overcome these limitations, we engineer optogenetic synthetic transcription factors to undergo liquid-liquid phase separation in close spatial proximity to promoters. Phase separation of constitutive and optogenetic synthetic transcription factors was achieved by incorporation of intrinsically disordered regions. Supported by a quantitative mathematical model, we demonstrate that engineered transcription factor droplets form at target promoters and increase gene expression up to fivefold. This increase in performance was observed in multiple mammalian cells lines as well as in mice following in situ transfection. The results of this work suggest that the introduction of intrinsically disordered domains is a simple yet effective means to boost synthetic transcription factor activity.
Engineering Supramolecular Organizing Centers for Optogenetic Control of Innate Immune Responses.
The spatiotemporal organization of oligomeric protein complexes, such as the supramolecular organizing centers (SMOCs) made of MyDDosome and MAVSome, is essential for transcriptional activation of host inflammatory responses and immunometabolism. Light‐inducible assembly of MyDDosome and MAVSome is presented herein to induce activation of nuclear factor‐kB and type‐I interferons. Engineering of SMOCs and the downstream transcription factor permits programmable and customized innate immune operations in a light‐dependent manner. These synthetic molecular tools will likely enable optical and user‐defined modulation of innate immunity at a high spatiotemporal resolution to facilitate mechanistic studies of distinct modes of innate immune activations and potential intervention of immune disorders and cancer.
Use of Optogenetic Amyloid-β to Monitor Protein Aggregation in Drosophila melanogaster, Danio rerio and Caenorhabditis elegans.
Alzheimer's Disease (AD) has long been associated with accumulation of extracellular amyloid plaques (Aβ) originating from the Amyloid Precursor Protein. Plaques have, however, been discovered in healthy individuals and not all AD brains show plaques, suggesting that extracellular Aβ aggregates may play a smaller role than anticipated. One limitation to studying Aβ peptide in vivo during disease progression is the inability to induce aggregation in a controlled manner. We developed an optogenetic method to induce Aβ aggregation and tested its biological influence in three model organisms-D. melanogaster, C. elegans and D. rerio. We generated a fluorescently labeled, optogenetic Aβ peptide that oligomerizes rapidly in vivo in the presence of blue light in all organisms. Here, we detail the procedures for expressing this fusion protein in animal models, investigating the effects on the nervous system using time lapse light-sheet microscopy, and performing metabolic assays to measure changes due to intracellular Aβ aggregation. This method, employing optogenetics to study the pathology of AD, allows spatial and temporal control in vivo that cannot be achieved by any other method at present.
Spatio-temporal Control of ERK Pulse Frequency Coordinates Fate Decisions during Mammary Acinar Morphogenesis.
The signaling events controlling proliferation, survival, and apoptosis during mammary epithelial acinar morphogenesis remain poorly characterized. By imaging single-cell ERK activity dynamics in MCF10A acini, we find that these fates depend on the frequency of ERK pulses. High pulse frequency is observed during initial acinus growth, correlating with rapid cell motility. Subsequent decrease in motility correlates with lower ERK pulse frequency and quiescence. Later, during lumen formation, coordinated ERK waves emerge across multiple cells of an acinus, correlating with high and low ERK pulse frequency in outer surviving and inner dying cells respectively. A PIK3CA H1047R mutation, commonly observed in breast cancer, increases ERK pulse frequency and inner cell survival, causing loss of lumen formation. Optogenetic entrainment of ERK pulses causally connects high ERK pulse frequency with inner cell survival. Thus, fate decisions during acinar morphogenesis are fine-tuned by different spatio-temporal coordination modalities of ERK pulse frequency.
Spatiotemporal sensitivity of embryonic heart specification to FGFR signaling in Drosophila.
Development of the Drosophila embryonic mesoderm is controlled through both internal and external inputs to the mesoderm. One such factor is Heartless (Htl), a Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor (FGFR) expressed in the mesoderm. Htl is involved in shaping the mesoderm at both early and later stages during embryogenesis. How Htl expression levels and timing of signaling affect mesoderm morphogenesis after spreading remains elusive. We have developed an optogenetic tool (Opto-htl) to control the activation of Htl signaling with precise spatiotemporal resolution in vivo. We find that the embryo is most sensitive to Htl over-activation within a developmental window of ~4 hours ranging from late stage 10 until early stage 13, which corresponds to early stages of heart morphogenesis. Opto-htl restores heart cells in htl mutants upon light activation, independent of its role in early mesoderm shaping events. We also successfully generated spatially distinct regions of Htl activity in the mesoderm using light-sheet microscopy. The developing tissue was unable to correct for the ensuing asymmetries in cell fate. Overall, Opto-htl is a powerful tool for studying spatiotemporal regulation of Htl signaling during embryogenesis.
β-Catenin signaling dynamics regulate cell fate in differentiating neural stem cells.
Stem cells undergo differentiation in complex and dynamic environments wherein instructive signals fluctuate on various timescales. Thus, cells must be equipped to properly respond to the timing of signals, for example, to distinguish sustained signaling from transient noise. However, how stem cells respond to dynamic variations in differentiation cues is not well characterized. Here, we use optogenetic activation of β-catenin signaling to probe the dynamic responses of differentiating adult neural stem cells (NSCs). We discover that, while elevated, sustained β-catenin activation sequentially promotes proliferation and differentiation, transient β-catenin induces apoptosis. Genetic perturbations revealed that the neurogenic/apoptotic fate switch was mediated through cell-cycle regulation by Growth Arrest and DNA Damage 45 gamma (Gadd45γ). Our results thus reveal a role for β-catenin dynamics in NSC fate decisions and may suggest a role for signal timing to minimize cell-fate errors, analogous to kinetic proofreading of stem-cell differentiation.
The rise and shine of yeast optogenetics.
Optogenetics refers to the control of biological processes with light. The activation of cellular phenomena by defined wavelengths has several advantages compared to traditional chemically-inducible systems, such as spatiotemporal resolution, dose-response regulation, low cost and moderate toxic effects. Optogenetics has been successfully implemented in yeast, a remarkable biological platform that is not only a model organism for cellular and molecular biology studies, but also a microorganism with diverse biotechnological applications. In this review, we summarize the main optogenetic systems implemented in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which allow orthogonal control (by light) of gene expression, protein subcellular localization, reconstitution of protein activity, or protein sequestration by oligomerization. Furthermore, we review the application of optogenetic systems in the control of metabolic pathways, heterologous protein production and flocculation. We then revise an example of a previously described yeast optogenetic switch, named FUN-LOV, which allows precise and strong activation of the target gene. Finally, we describe optogenetic systems that have not yet been implemented in yeast, which could therefore be used to expand the panel of available tools in this biological chassis. In conclusion, a wide repertoire of optogenetic systems can be used to address fundamental biological questions and broaden the biotechnological toolkit in yeast.
Optogenetics in plants.
The last two decades have witnessed the emergence of optogenetics; a field that has given researchers the ability to use light to control biological processes at high spatio-temporal and quantitative resolution, in a reversible manner with minimal side effects. Optogenetics has revolutionised the neurosciences, increased our understanding of cellular signalling and metabolic networks and resulted in variety of applications in biotechnology and biomedicine. However, implementing optogenetics in plants has been less straight forward given their dependency on light for their life cycle. Here, we highlight some of the widely used technologies in microorganisms and animal systems derived from plant photoreceptor proteins and discuss strategies recently implemented to overcome the challenges for using optogenetics in plants.
Optogenetic interrogation and control of cell signaling.
Signaling networks control the flow of information through biological systems and coordinate the chemical processes that constitute cellular life. Optogenetic actuators - genetically encoded proteins that undergo light-induced changes in activity or conformation - are useful tools for probing signaling networks over time and space. They have permitted detailed dissections of cellular proliferation, differentiation, motility, and death, and enabled the assembly of synthetic systems with applications in areas as diverse as photography, chemical synthesis, and medicine. In this review, we provide a brief introduction to optogenetic systems and describe their application to molecular-level analyses of cell signaling. Our discussion highlights important research achievements and speculates on future opportunities to exploit optogenetic systems in the study and assembly of complex biochemical networks.
Clustering-based positive feedback between a kinase and its substrate enables effective T-cell receptor signaling.
Protein clusters and condensates are pervasive in mammalian signaling. Yet how the signaling capacity of higher-order assemblies differs from simpler forms of molecular organization is still poorly understood. Here, we present an optogenetic approach to switch between light-induced clusters and simple protein heterodimers with a single point mutation. We apply this system to study how clustering affects signaling from the kinase Zap70 and its substrate LAT, proteins that normally form membrane-localized clusters during T cell activation. We find that light-induced clusters of LAT and Zap70 trigger potent activation of downstream signaling pathways even in non-T cells, whereas one-to-one dimers do not. We provide evidence that clusters harbor a local positive feedback loop between three components: Zap70, LAT, and Src-family kinases that bind to phosphorylated LAT and further activate Zap70. Overall, our study provides evidence for a specific role of protein condensates in cell signaling, and identifies a simple biochemical circuit that can robustly sense protein oligomerization state.
DMA-tudor interaction modules control the specificity of in vivo condensates.
Biomolecular condensation is a widespread mechanism of cellular compartmentalization. Because the ‘survival of motor neuron protein’ (SMN) is required for the formation of three different membraneless organelles (MLOs), we hypothesized that at least one region of SMN employs a unifying mechanism of condensation. Unexpectedly, we show here that SMN’s globular tudor domain was sufficient for dimerization-induced condensation in vivo, while its two intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs) were not. The condensate-forming property of the SMN tudor domain required binding to its ligand, dimethylarginine (DMA), and was shared by at least seven additional tudor domains in six different proteins. Remarkably, asymmetric versus symmetric DMA determined whether two distinct nuclear MLOs – gems and Cajal bodies – were separate or overlapping. These findings show that the combination of a tudor domain bound to its DMA ligand – DMA-tudor – represents a versatile yet specific interaction module that regulates MLO assembly and defines their composition.
Light control of RTK activity: from technology development to translational research.
Inhibition of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) by small molecule inhibitors and monoclonal antibodies is used to treat cancer. Conversely, activation of RTKs with their ligands, including growth factors and insulin, is used to treat diabetes and neurodegeneration. However, conventional therapies that rely on injection of RTK inhibitors or activators do not provide spatiotemporal control over RTK signaling, which results in diminished efficiency and side effects. Recently, a number of optogenetic and optochemical approaches have been developed that allow RTK inhibition or activation in cells and in vivo with light. Light irradiation can control RTK signaling non-invasively, in a dosed manner, with high spatio-temporal precision, and without the side effects of conventional treatments. Here we provide an update on the current state of the art of optogenetic and optochemical RTK technologies and the prospects of their use in translational studies and therapy.
Shared signaling pathways in Alzheimer's and metabolic disease may point to new treatment approaches.
'A peculiar severe disease process of the cerebral cortex' are the exact words used by A. Alzheimer in 1906 to describe a patient's increasingly severe condition of memory loss, changes in personality, and sleep disturbance. A century later, this 'peculiar' disease has become widely known as Alzheimer's disease (AD), the world's most common neurodegenerative disease, affecting more than 35 million people globally. At the same time, its pathology remains unclear and no successful treatment exists. Several theories for AD etiology have emerged throughout the past century. In this review, we focus on the metabolic mechanisms that are similar between AD and metabolic diseases, based on the results from genome-wide association studies. We discuss signaling pathways involved in both types of disease and look into new optogenetic methods to study the in vivo mechanisms of AD.
Novel culture system via wirelessly controllable optical stimulation of the FGF signaling pathway for human and pig pluripotency.
Stem cell fate is largely determined by cellular signaling networks and is heavily dependent on the supplementation of exogenous recombinant proteins into culture media; however, uneven distribution and inconsistent stability of recombinant proteins are closely associated with the spontaneous differentiation of pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) and result in significant costs in large-scale manufacturing. Here, we report a novel PSC culture system via wirelessly controllable optical activation of the fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signaling pathway without the need for supplementation of recombinant FGF2 protein, a key molecule for maintaining pluripotency of PSCs. Using a fusion protein between the cytoplasmic region of the FGF receptor-1 and a light-oxygen-voltage domain, we achieved tunable, blue light-dependent activation of FGF signaling in human and porcine PSCs. Our data demonstrate that a highly controllable optical stimulation of the FGF signaling pathway is sufficient for long-term maintenance of PSCs, without the loss of differentiation potential into three germ layers. This culture system will be a cost-effective platform for a large-scale stem cell culture.
Genetically-encoded biosensors for analyzing and controlling cellular process in yeast.
Yeast has been a robust platform to manufacture a broad range of biofuels, commodity chemicals, natural products and pharmaceuticals. The membrane-bound organelles in yeast provide us the means to access the specialized metabolism for various biosynthetic applications. The separation and compartmentalization of genetic and metabolic events presents us the opportunity to precisely control and program gene expression for higher order biological functions. To further advance yeast synthetic biology platform, genetically encoded biosensors and actuators haven been engineered for in vivo monitoring and controlling cellular processes with spatiotemporal resolutions. The dynamic response, sensitivity and operational range of these genetically encoded sensors are determined by the regulatory architecture, dynamic assemly and interactions of the related proteins and genetic elements. This review provides an update of the basic design principles underlying the allosteric transcription factors, GPCR and optogenetics-based sensors, aiming to precisely analyze and control yeast cellular processes for various biotechnological applications.
Collective ERK/Akt activity waves orchestrate epithelial homeostasis by driving apoptosis-induced survival.
Cell death events continuously challenge epithelial barrier function, yet are crucial to eliminate old or critically damaged cells. How such apoptotic events are spatio-temporally organized to maintain epithelial homeostasis remains unclear. We observe waves of Extracellular Signal-Regulated Kinase (ERK) and AKT serine/threonine kinase (Akt) activity pulses that originate from apoptotic cells and propagate radially to healthy surrounding cells. Such a propagation requires Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) signaling. At the single-cell level, ERK/Akt waves act as spatial survival signals that locally protect cells in the vicinity of the epithelial injury from apoptosis for a period of 3-4 hours. At the cell population level, ERK/Akt waves maintain epithelial homeostasis (EH) in response to mild or intense insults. Disruption of this spatial signaling system results in the inability of a model epithelial tissue to ensure barrier function in response to cellular stress.
Engineered Illumination Devices for Optogenetic Control of Cellular Signaling Dynamics.
Spatially and temporally varying patterns of morphogen signals during development drive cell fate specification at the proper location and time. However, current in vitro methods typically do not allow for precise, dynamic spatiotemporal control of morphogen signaling and are thus insufficient to readily study how morphogen dynamics affect cell behavior. Here, we show that optogenetic Wnt/β-catenin pathway activation can be controlled at user-defined intensities, temporal sequences, and spatial patterns using engineered illumination devices for optogenetic photostimulation and light activation at variable amplitudes (LAVA). By patterning human embryonic stem cell (hESC) cultures with varying light intensities, LAVA devices enabled dose-responsive control of optoWnt activation and Brachyury expression. Furthermore, time-varying and spatially localized patterns of light revealed tissue patterning that models the embryonic presentation of Wnt signals in vitro. LAVA devices thus provide a low-cost, user-friendly method for high-throughput and spatiotemporal optogenetic control of cell signaling for applications in developmental and cell biology.
Clustering of the ζ-Chain Can Initiate T Cell Receptor Signaling.
T cell activation is initiated when ligand binding to the T cell receptor (TCR) triggers intracellular phosphorylation of the TCR-CD3 complex. However, it remains unknown how biophysical properties of TCR engagement result in biochemical phosphorylation events. Here, we constructed an optogenetic tool that induces spatial clustering of ζ-chain in a light controlled manner. We showed that spatial clustering of the ζ-chain intracellular tail alone was sufficient to initialize T cell triggering including phosphorylation of ζ-chain, Zap70, PLCγ, ERK and initiated Ca2+ flux. In reconstituted COS-7 cells, only Lck expression was required to initiate ζ-chain phosphorylation upon ζ-chain clustering, which leads to the recruitment of tandem SH2 domain of Zap70 from cell cytosol to the newly formed ζ-chain clusters at the plasma membrane. Taken together, our data demonstrated the biophysical relevance of receptor clustering in TCR signaling.
Optical Activation of TrkB Signaling.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), via activation of tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB), plays a critical role in neuronal proliferation, differentiation, survival, and death. Dysregulation of TrkB signaling is implicated in neurodegenerative disorders and cancers. Precise activation of TrkB signaling with spatial and temporal resolution is greatly desired to study the dynamic nature of TrkB signaling and its role in related diseases. Here we develop different optogenetic approaches that use light to activate TrkB signaling. Utilizing the photosensitive protein Arabidopsis thaliana cryptochrome 2 (CRY2), the light-inducible homo-interaction of the intracellular domain of TrkB (iTrkB) in the cytosol or on the plasma membrane is able to induce the activation of downstream MAPK/ERK and PI3K/Akt signaling as well as the neurite outgrowth of PC12 cells. Moreover, we prove that such strategies are generalizable to other optical homo-dimerizers by demonstrating the optical TrkB activation based on the light-oxygen-voltage domain of aureochrome 1 from Vaucheria frigida. The results open up new possibilities of many other optical platforms to activate TrkB signaling to fulfill customized needs. By comparing all the different strategies, we find that the CRY2-integrated approach to achieve light-induced cell membrane recruitment and homo-interaction of iTrkB is most efficient in activating TrkB signaling. The optogenetic strategies presented are promising tools to investigate BDNF/TrkB signaling with tight spatial and temporal control.